Homebuilders who have struggled to obtain key building materials such as wood and cement now face an even more pressing priority: an acute shortage of glass for windows and doors.
one october survey by John Burns Real Estate Consulting found that windows are now the top procurement challenge for 63% of homebuilders. Shortages of lumber, engineered wood products and concrete are still problematic, but affect less than 20% of builders, according to the report.
The average window lead time currently ranges between four and 15 weeks, while some window types have lead times of 20 to 45 weeks, according to the report. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, average lead times were typically only two to three weeks.
While the shortage of glass is a challenge for some window manufacturers, the biggest problem is the lack of skilled labor. According to the report, window manufacturing, even in the most automated factories, is extremely labor intensive. The industry has therefore been hit with labor shortages due to COVID-19.
“Most window manufacturing plants are more dependent on labor and less on capital than other building materials manufacturers,” the report said.
The lack of skilled workers has been cited by two major US companies – Venice-based impact-resistant window and door maker PGTI and California-based Cornerstone – in recent earnings calls. They say hiring manufacturing workers is a near-term priority area, Business Observer reported.
Supplies are also an issue for window manufacturers. Winter storms in Texas earlier this year disrupted production of key resins used in windows and shortages have persisted ever since. Later, Hurricane Ida reportedly damaged refineries and chemical plants along the Gulf Coast, adding to industry woes. Resin is a key ingredient for vinyl production, and some vinyl producers have reported delays of up to five months.
The shortages have led to dozens of American glass makers assigning customers.
For this reason, many glass manufacturers have moved their production overseas to countries such as China, Mexico and India. However, that was not enough to make up the difference, with glass shortages also affecting the supply of bottles and jars, leading to price increases for some groceries.